The name Gary Husband should be very familiar to rock and fusion fans alike, as the drummer/keyboard player has played with many legendary performers over the years, like Allan Holdsworth, Gary Moore, Jack Bruce, Billy Cobham, Gongzilla, John McLaughlin, Level 42, and Andy Summers, as well as his own solo recordings. Keith "MusikMan" Hannaleck caught up with the multi-instrumentalist recently to talk about his career and the new DVD Force Majeure .
Read on for the full interview!
MuzikMan: Let us start with your background and upbringing Gary. You were born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England-what was your childhood like? When did you first pick up an instrument and how did things develop for you bringing us to present day.
Gary Husband: There was a lot of music around in the house as a child - my dad, being a great musician, and my mother, a fantastic dancer, meant I was exposed to all facets of the music and entertainment business pretty early on. I never had any doubts as to what my calling was in life. I was very lucky. I think it was one of the first things I knew, that music would simply be my life. I began with a very heavy, intensive classical piano training about as soon as I could reach the piano, but outside of this and at home I was hearing Brazilian music, many forms of jazz, a lot of film music - Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Hermann, and a lot of other things I was simultaneously discovering on record or TV. A lot of singers - Lena Horne, still one of my favourite singers of all time, Sinatra, and a lot of big band music. The record player was in constant motion!! Drums came later, and very much as result of the particular hatred I felt towards the whole classical music world - the classical "establishment" as I was experiencing it. This of course was not helped by the fact that most of the music I was being heavily inspired and influenced by, outside of my classical study, was, in their world, simply cast aside as joke music and something I should have been never taking seriously. I ended up making a long break from piano as a result, and gradually ... gradually I eventually started to gravitate back to it, literally almost having to wait and just rediscover it again my love for it again, spiritually. I don't have any regrets though - the big paradox! It is the only real way to properly become a pianist, and that kind of technique and articulation is certainly still with me.
MuzikMan: You have collaborated with the likes of Allan Holdsworth, Gary Moore and Van Halen. Who were some of the more interesting artists that you have had to pleasure to work with? What some of the more memorable events that helped to shape your future as a musician?
Gary Husband: Well, I spent many years through my youth playing all kinds of music, and I feel in a general way all of it helped shape the ways I started to develop. A lot of what I did was pretty dreadful, but you form a lot even as a result of playing terrible music. I think a relevant point here is that I have always enjoyed many kinds of music anyway ... and getting to play with big bands, punk bands, rock bands or whatever it happened to be, really did also shape my sound, attack, technique and articulation, as a drummer. But of course I was just chasing getting involved with something much more meaningful in the areas I wanted to go in - pursuing any chance I could get to start working with that, and dealing with the kind of musical expression that was bubbling away constantly in me.
Around 14 years old I met a great friend, Steve Topping, an incredible musician - guitarist and composer. I appear on three of his albums, and he's appeared on one of mine and played with me live. We've played, worked, developed a lot together over the years in a way very important to the way I play and write now. Another stand-out would have to be Allan Holdsworth, who I enjoyed many, many years developing with. We played ... a lot! That had really a profound effect on the way I was forming.
Right now I've been working and recording with John McLaughlin - a very special, hugely inspirational and influential figure to me personally, but over the years there've been a lot of other people I've appeared with, toured and recorded with regularly such as Billy Cobham, Jack Bruce, the group Level 42 which still performs and makes new records and live DVDs, the Police guy Andy Summers, Jeff Beck I played with recently, a lot of people in jazz, funk ... lots. I've been lucky.
MuzikMan: Your new double DVD set Force Majeure is an ambitious project featuring your own compositions and your personal interpretations of major groundbreaking artists like John McLaughlin of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame. How did artists such as these become a major influence and why?
Gary Husband: Well ... it's the power, the genius ... people who have greatness at their very core, and that's about as best as I can put it. Anyway the music does the talking. John's as important as Miles to me. Burt Bacharach, another one, and so unique ... but from a totally different world. Bjork, another one. These are three people who I chose to depict inside of some original music I write for Force Majeure. Maybe I was saying "thank you". I should really point out though, really, Allan's in there too, Miles Davis also to a great degree, a lot of the classical influences I had, certain film music, Kenton, a lot of different pop music ... everything that ever affected me. Everyone that ever affected me, deeply. And at the centre of it all - the mixing of the idioms, the way it runs, the way it develops, and unfolds in this way, is, I guess, me.
MuzikMan: What do you find most challenging in music today in comparison to when your career began?
Gary Husband: The music, of course. What I do, where I go, how I hear it and what I'm going to do it ... it'll be an eternal challenge I'm sure. But that's the way it is with this mystical thing we do! And I'm addicted to the search and the discovery. I need it. Second to this (!) as probably every musician will tell you right now is the general state of things in terms of the business of music. It's a fight, more now than I can ever imagine it would have been before in quite this way. These are worrying times. We've all got to be very careful and pretty canny about what we're doing. If you want to look at the sales of CD's for example right at this moment it's actually quite alarming.
MuzikMan: Your ability to multi-task on stage is an incredible thing to witness. How is that you are able to play the drums and piano so proficiently then totally change gears and lead a horn section as the conductor. How does one's brain work in such a fashion?
Gary Husband: Well for me it's not in the brain. Profiency? That's down to work - hard work, that's all. Drums, piano, keyboards, those are my instruments ... and they are all number one instruments for me too. It's kind of the way it's always been. There's no one over the other. To be conductor, though, is a specialised skill - something I don't pretend to have a huge handle on just yet ... but I needed to direct, and it's pretty hard to do that from drums. In the Force Majeure show, what with nerves, and a not over abundance of time to rehearse it was a big experience for me. A colossal responsibility ... but, that's what it's about too. To stretch, and go for it.
MuzikMan: What are your thoughts on the major label conglomerates and how they operate, opposed to the D.I.Y. Indie spirit that has grown exponentially due the advent of the Internet and new technologies for recording artists?
Gary Husband: Well, in truth, I'm not sorry to see the rather inevitable downfall of the major labels now. I'm not sorry to see the accountants or whoever these people are who seemingly run these labels out of a job either. They've denied serious artists the opportunity or chance to reach the public for as about as long as you might want to remember or research. Throughout history!! However, the Internet I truly celebrate. One big basic upside is that now of course we can reach people, and people can have exposure to what we do. The downside ... and the real big concern is the situation I was pertaining to in answer to the last question, but I hope, sincerely, we can find a way to figure this out. The sooner the better, for obvious reasons. I refer, of course, to matters copyright, free downloading and the suchlike.
MuzikMan: What are your goals and aspirations in music right now?
Gary Husband: Well ... it is really a mystical process to me. My favourite way to describe what we do! Tomorrow morning I may have a clear impulse on something ... it may stay with me, or dissipate, or form and arrive again in some other way a week or month down the line. What I can say with profound delight is that the process is alive and well in me! I trust it and I trust IN it and I just want to stay inspired and healthy enough to just keep pursuing, imagining, dreaming, capturing as closely and as articulately as I can these impulses and essences, making an experience for other people to listen to, to feel, even find themselves become a part of and be ... moved, really. That's really my great goal. I'm really quite a simple soul! Speaking specifically I aim to follow the piano interpretations album I did a few years ago, based on Allan Holdsworth's music, (The Things I See - Angel Air Records) with a similar approach on John McLaughlin's music. I'm about half-way through the writing for that. I'm planning a new formation of some kind that I may play drums and keyboards in. I have a drum album I'd like to make also. Details and progress of all projects I keep updated on my own website - www.garyhusband.com
MuzikMan: Are there any CDs in common rotation in your stereo right now that you feel are extraordinary?
Gary Husband: Oh yes, I like to hear a lot of stuff. Many times not though, too. I love peace, and strive for more and more clarity ... but I like the peace INSIDE of a big pulsating, vibrant city. I guess I'm peculiar! I listen to a huge diverse range of music, then at other times things from a particular area of music for a while. Other times I love to hear very simple things. Other times I want intensity intensity intensity.
MuzikMan: What advice would you have to give to aspiring drummers everywhere if they want to become a professional and reach the levels that you have attained?
Gary Husband: Just work. Strive. Reach. Listen. Stretch. Work on sound, work on feeling. On your time. On articulation. Mean it, always.
Keith "MusikMan" Hannaleck